Dementia is a group of diseases that can impair memory, concentration and other cognitive abilities. Early diagnosis is essential for slowing this progressive disease and prolonging healthy brain function.

What Is Dementia?

There are several different types of primary dementia, including:

  • Alzheimer’s Disease
  • Frontotemporal Disorders
  • Lewy Body Dementia
  • Vascular Dementia

Primary dementias are progressive diseases that worsen over time. Medical conditions such as depression, hypothyroidism and kidney disease can also cause dementia, however this form of dementia improves when the condition is treated.

What Are the Symptoms?

While memory loss is a key symptom of dementia, it can also manifest in a variety of cognitive, psychological and behavioral symptoms.

Cognitive symptoms range from memory loss, confusion and difficulty communicating and problem solving to uncoordinated motor functions and the inability to plan and organize complex tasks.

Psychological and behavioral symptoms include:

  • Anxiety
  • Changes in personality
  • Delusions and hallucinations
  • Depression
  • Inappropriate behaviors
  • Increased anger and agitation
  • Paranoia

Initially, dementia symptoms are mild and progressively worsen. Cognitive symptoms typically present at the onset while psychological and behavioral symptoms occur in the later stages.

How Is It Diagnosed?

Your doctor will perform a thorough physical and neurological examination consisting of a variety of cognitive and neuropsychological tests. These tests are designed to evaluate memory and attention, language and problem-solving abilities. Some patients also undergo MRI or positron emission tomography scans to look for patterns in brain activity.

How Is It Treated?

Treatment for dementia is focused on slowing the disease’s progression and alleviating its symptoms. There are a variety of medications available to reduce the symptoms of both mild to moderate and moderate to severe Alzheimer’s disease; these medications have also been used to effectively manage other forms of dementia.

Depending on the type of dementia, your doctor may include additional treatments to better manage your condition. For example, a patient diagnosed with vascular dementia may also benefit from a treatment plan targeted at lowering blood pressure and unhealthy cholesterol.